Improving financial management in university students using behaviour change theory

This studentship involves applying theories and concepts from behavioural science to understand and improve financial literacy, financial management, and/or financial behaviours among university students.

Start date

1 October 2022


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

University of Surrey Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Funding information

UKRI standard stipend rate (£16,062 for 2022/23) and coverage of standard home student fees.


Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD in Psychology, supervised by experts in behaviour change, habits, and decision-making.

For many students, going to university marks a transition to greater personal and financial independence. Yet, many students struggle to remain in control of their money, which can have detrimental impacts on their academic achievement and wellbeing. Financial problems experienced at university can also track into later adulthood. While financial problems among students cannot of course be solely attributable to students' decision-making, providing students with the tools to make better financial decisions should at least partly alleviate the risk of experiencing financial difficulties.

Improving financial management requires changing behaviour. A myriad of behaviour change theories and techniques are available to assist with the development of financial management support initiatives. Determining which of these to use, in what contexts, when, and for whom, requires an understanding of students' financial literacy and decision-making. The aims of the PhD are: (1) to synthesise existing theory and evidence around financial literacy, financial management, financial-related behaviours, and their determinants, among university students; (2) conduct novel, qualitative and/or quantitative research to develop an understanding of university students' financial literacy, decision-making and/or financial behaviours; (3) develop theory- and evidence-based resources to improve financial literacy, financial management and/or financial behaviours; (4) assess the acceptability, feasibility, and/or effectiveness of these resources among University of Surrey students.

This project would suit applicants with experience or special interest in cognitive psychology (decision-making, habit), behavioural psychology (behaviour change, habit theory), economic psychology (financial behaviour), and student populations, and qualitative and quantitative methods.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants for PhDs in Psychology are expected to hold a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree (65 per cent or above) in psychology (or a related discipline) and a masters degree in a relevant subject with a pass of 65 per cent or above.

UK candidates only, only UK fees covered.

English Language requirements 

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Psychology PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab (select October 2022 start date). Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application. Once you have completed and submitted your application, please send an email to the primary supervisor ( confirming you have applied.

Studentship FAQs

Read our studentship FAQs to find out more about applying and funding.

Application deadline

Contact details

Benjamin Gardner
35 AC 05
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686863


Cognitive Psychology Research Group

Example references

Financial decision-making

Frydman, C., & Camerer, C. F. (2016). The psychology and neuroscience of financial decision making. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 661-675. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.07.003

Money management among students

Kidwell, B., & Turrisi, R. (2004). An examination of college student money management tendencies. Journal of Economic Psychology, 25, 601-616. doi: 10.1016/S0167-4870(03)00073-4

Habit theory

Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Rebar, A. (2020) Does habit weaken the intention-behaviour relationship? Revisiting the habit-intention interaction hypothesis. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 14, e12553. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12553

Gardner, B., Richards, R., Lally, P., Rebar, A., Thwaite, T., & Beeken, R. J. (2021) Breaking habits or breaking habitual behaviours? Old habits as an undervalued factor in weight loss maintenance. Appetite, 162, 105183.


Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.